in Defence

RAF Typhoons trial Leonardo's BriteCloud

Posted 28 May 2019 · Add Comment

Leonardo has been contracted by the UK Ministry of Defence to support a series of trials in which the ‘BriteCloud 55’ Expendable Active Decoy (EAD) is being trialled for operations with the Eurofighter Typhoon fleet of the Royal Air Force (RAF).


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Speaking at the Typhoon Ministerial Meeting in Germany, Defence Minister Stuart Andrew announced the beginning of a series of capability tests of BriteCloud, a drinks-can sized missile decoy to protect combat jets from the latest radar-guided missiles.

BriteCloud uses powerful radar emissions to disrupt the targeting system within air-to-air and surface-to-air missiles, drawing them away to a safe distance. The device can be fired from an aircraft flare dispenser without the need for modification to the aircraft.

Designed and manufactured in Luton by Leonardo, the miniature decoy has been tested and released for the first time aboard the RAF’s fleet of Typhoon aircraft. The MoD has been working with Leonardo on the development of BriteCloud since 2012 and has so far invested £27 million in the system, with the project sustaining 50 jobs in Luton.

Defence Minister Stuart Andrew said: "Britecloud offers the RAF a powerful and cost-effective way to keep our pilots safer than ever on the frontline.

"These trials show UK industry is once again at the heart of defence innovation, providing our Armed Forces with state-of-the-art capabilities and creating high-tech jobs across the country."

The first BriteCloud trial with Typhoon aircraft took place in the UK in April. At this trial, 33 BriteCloud 55 rounds were dispensed from aircraft flown by the RAF’s 41 Test and Evaluation Squadron against a range of threats designed to mirror those faced on the battlefield.

Further trials are planned to ensure the decoy launches safely from the aircraft and to develop a range of operational uses for the technology on the battlefield, including adding the devices to military helicopters and C-130 Hercules aircraft. The Typhoon trials will also inform how such decoys could be used on the RAF’s Lightning stealth jets.


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Should the trials be succesful, the devices will be available for frontline aircrews by the end of 2019.

Sir Simon Bollom, CEO of the MOD’s Defence Equipment and Support organisation, said: "Our ongoing partnership with Leonardo continues to drive vital research and development that leads to the kind of innovation demanded by our RAF today. The trials of BriteCloud on Typhoon demonstrates how we are constantly striving to find a technological edge and protect our service personnel."

Wing Commander Pete Ward, SO1 Typhoon said: "The initial flight-trial of Bright-cloud from RAF Typhoon aircraft was a key milestone in moving closer towards a viable and extremely valuable capability for the warfighter; trials will now move to operational testing and validation before the initial operating capability is declared, planned at this time for later in 2019."

BriteCloud was cleared for service last year on the RAF’s fleet of Tornado GR4 aircraft and Leonardo has delivered a quantity of the countermeasures to the RAF for operations.

BriteCloud packs digital protection from dangerous radar-guided missiles into a package the size of a drinks can, fitting into the same launcher as a standard 55mm flare. Leonardo is currently the only company in the world which has managed to sufficiently miniaturise Digital RF Memory (DRFM) countermeasure technology to the point where it can be launched from a standard chaff and flare dispenser. In 2018 the RAF became the first Air Force to field this new protective technology.

Prior to accepting BriteCloud into service on Tornado, the UK MoD conducted extensive testing to validate the performance of the decoy, ensuring it could be launched safely from the aircraft and developing operational tactics for its use in battle. It is intended that this work will be used to support the agile delivery of BriteCloud into sevice on Typhoon.

A range of BriteCloud variants are available. As well as the ‘BriteCloud 55’ variant, named for its compatibility with 55mm flare dispensers such as those on the Typhoon and Gripen E, Leonardo also produces ‘BriteCloud 218’ (2”x1”x8”) which is compatible with ‘square’ format countermeasure dispensers such as those seen on F-15 and F-16 aircraft. In addition, Leonardo offers the BriteCloud 55-T, a more powerful version of the BriteCloud 55 which can generate jamming signals strong enough to protect larger aircraft such as the C27-J, C-130 and A400M.
 

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